Many migrants in the UK are legally entitled to permanent immigration status, but wait years caught up in the Home Office’s hostile, labyrinthine and extortionate system before they manage to get their lives on track. Meanwhile, in order to survive, they are forced into a dangerous and precarious existence. The short piece below illustrates one aspect of this. It is by Haringey Welcome member Champagne, who finally gained her Indefinite Leave to Remain earlier this year, after twenty years.
Whenever I find a job, make friends or have that tight clench feeling in my stomach, I already know in the back of my mind….that this perfect world of mine is “fake” and will crash at any time. It’s like being a bird that nests and has several homes but never actually being settled. But sometimes your temporary home can last longer or shorter than your previous. You must also note that perfect takes into consideration a job means money, no begging, you can fend for yourself, you can afford somewhere to live, may not necessarily can save. But we hope and have faith that this time will be different. It’s an opportunity to get you closer to try and resolve your illegal status.
This job I had to run from was one of my many “perfect worlds” that wouldn’t last. I made friends, became part of the gang. I would of course listen to their stories but couldn’t actually contribute much of my life stories, travels or true encounters but I was sure to become the ‘go to’ friend. Dressing up in the mornings and looking good gave you purpose and sense of belonging that you were a part of a culture. There was room for advancement to climb the career ladder, the hotel stays for training, meeting new people and just mere thought of opportunities was great. Felt like you were going somewhere. With a wage like this you can have enough money to afford a good lawyer. Till you hear the one call, the dreaded call, “Hi Miss Johnson can you bring in your passport please, we have checked your records and can’t seem to find it, it’s just for the records” and you respond “Sure can I bring it on Monday? Sorry about that” in your best British accent. You have to say Monday to buy more time as you’re busy, although sometimes you don’t have time to buy, you just have to go or escape however. During this short moment the fear creeps in like a flood. Your whole body is jolted by the news. The room seems like a torture chamber and the people around are like aliens with no heart. But you can’t show your identity, your true self. You’re not allowed to break down in front of your once friends, best friends even. You may excuse yourself to the loo, to break down but compose yourself after. For me I loved acting from a child so a new mask change wasn’t hard. But I was dying inside. Time stood still, my heart beat was loud in the silence in my head. I would quickly glance over every so often if my colleagues were ever noticing anything different. Luckily for me it was a Friday….my last pay day, my last day seeing the friends I’ve made and last day on the job. A real smasher to my perfect world, well another memory of one of my perfect worlds. I’m further from my goal, how will I afford anything….how will I survive now?